Ending the cut-off race

A committee of experts is on the job to come up with modalities for a ‘high quality aptitude test’ for admission to undergraduate programmes of Central universities from the 2021-22 academic session. The mandatory computer-based common entrance exam, to be conducted by the National Testing Agency, is expected to end the oppressive reign of cut-off marks based on Class XII Board exams. The UGC sees it as an opportunity for the varsities, more than 50 in number, to enrol aspirants with an aptitude for a particular course or subject. While the minimum eligibility to be set would mean more candidates getting a shot at admission, the move would also do away with the need to appear in multiple entrance tests.

The endeavour is in line with the National Education Policy’s stress on conceptual understanding, where individual interests and talent get primacy during admissions and marks in Board exams alone are not a barometer of knowledge and intelligence. Those who have a better grasp of the subject and a greater grounding in the basics are likely to have an advantage. While minimising the stakes of the Class XII exams and the need for coaching classes, the focus is to be on the holistic growth of students. Another aim of the policy is to remove the strict compartmentalisation of Arts, Science and Commerce, so that students can choose subjects based on their interests. The activation and standardisation of the proposals will take time, but these are in the right direction. The formalisation of a SAT-like module that disincentivises rote learning is a much-required change.

The plan to hold one exam for admission will also take care of the issue of different boards having varied curriculum and evaluation patterns, and the resultant discrepancies. If what is conceptualised falls in place, a university will be able to see every student’s individual subject portfolio and decide on admissions based on aptitude, absorption and curiosity — the essential ingredients of meaningful education.

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